An echocardiogram (echo) uses ultrasound to create pictures of the heart. The test lets your doctor check your heart valves, the four sections (chambers) of your heart, blood flow and movement in the heart. A hand-held wand is moved over your chest during the test to collect the images. Many times, Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler are combined with an echo to check blood flow across the heart’s valves.

Why do I need this test?

An echo is used to:

  • Check how well your heart is working.
  • Check for heart disease. An echo can show many types of disease, such as valve disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, infective endocarditis, cardiac masses and congenital heart disease.
  • Perform regular follow-up for patients with valve disease and previous surgery.
  • See how well your treatment plan (medications or procedures) are working.

Can I eat or drink on the day of the test?

Yes. You can eat and drink as usual on the day of the test.

Should I take my medications on the day of the test?

Yes. Take all medications as usual on the day of the test.

What should I wear on the day of the test?

You may wear anything you like. You will change into a hospital gown before the test. Please do not bring valuables with you.

What happens during the test?

  • Before the test, we will explain the details of the test and the possible complications and side effects. Please ask any questions you have so you know exactly what to expect.
  • The test area is supervised by a doctor at all times.
  • You will remove all clothing from the waist up and change into a hospital gown.
  • A cardiac sonographer will place three electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on your chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor that keeps track of your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
  • You will lie on your left side during the test. A wand (called a sound wave transducer) will be placed on several areas of your chest. The wand will be coated with a special gel to help create clear pictures. The gel will not harm your skin.
  • You may hear noises during the test. These are from the Doppler signal and are normal.
  • You may need to change positions during the test in order to get pictures of several areas of your heart. You may also need to hold your breath for short periods of time.

How will I feel during the test?

The test shouldn’t cause pain or major discomfort. The gel can feel cold on your skin, and you may feel a little pressure as the wand moves on your skin.

How long does the test take?

The appointment will take about 60 minutes. After the test, you will get dressed and go home or go to other appointments you have scheduled.

How do I get the results of my test?

A cardiologist will review your test and share the results with your doctor.

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